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V.com weekend vote: Based on when your bows were made and what you know, do any of your bows likely have an ivory tip?

The Weekend Vote

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Published: March 14, 2014 at 4:40 PM [UTC]

According to the League of American Orchestras, some strict travel limits took effect on Feb. 25 regarding elephant ivory.

"According to the order, many instruments containing African elephant ivory will not be allowed into the U.S., even if a musician is simply returning to the U.S. with instruments in their personal possession, not intended for sale, " said the League.

I hate to say it, but this affects violinists, violists, cellists and bassists in a big way.

Bow tipsThe only way to get your bow that has an ivory tip, or your violin that has some ivory fittings, into the U.S. (or back into the U.S.) is to prove that you've owned it since before Feb. 26, 1976 (not only that it was made before then, but also that one person has owned it since before then), and to go through the process of obtaining a CITES musical instrument certificate, which you'll need to have in hand.

As the League states, "A great many musical instruments containing African elephant ivory, while legally manufactured and acquired, would have been purchased after 1976, and will now be completely prohibited from entering into the U.S. Still others that have not been sold since 1976 may be missing key documentation. "

Personally speaking, one of my bows was made in the 1920s, and the other is a carbon fiber bow. I'm pretty sure that the carbon fiber bow has no ivory, but the other? I don't have any ivory fittings in terms of my pegs or tailpiece, or the frog of my bow, but many do.

So here is my question for you: Based on when your bows were made and what you know, do any of your bows likely have an ivory tip?


From Lawrence Price
Posted on March 14, 2014 at 4:49 PM
This is a disaster in the making. My wonderful French bow and most of my other bows are effected.
From 66.61.95.51
Posted on March 14, 2014 at 4:55 PM
Pretty sure both of my German bows have ivory tips. I have no idea when they were made.

From Steve Reizes
Posted on March 14, 2014 at 4:57 PM
I have one very old bow which clearly has an Ivory tip. It's been in my family since about 1930, but I have no documentation on it. I also have a bow purchased a couple of years ago which likely has an ivory tip. I don't travel out of the country much, but that makes getting caught up in this all the more likely since if I have reason to bring a violin, I would be less likely to have everything needed to hand.
From Danielle Martin
Posted on March 14, 2014 at 5:14 PM
My tip for my violin bow is bone, but the frog is made of ivory. I'm not even sure if it's mammoth, even though it was made in the 1980s. Basically, I'm going to have to get a travel bow.
From Doreen Gordon
Posted on March 14, 2014 at 5:14 PM
My viola bow has an ivory tip. I believe it was made in the 1950's and I've owned it since about 1960, but I'd be hard pressed to prove that. That said, I don't presently play my viola and would be unlikely to travel abroad with it. Still this is good to know.
From 188.123.230.98
Posted on March 14, 2014 at 5:39 PM
Of course this new rule is very bad for many musicians.
As i know bows are now after repairing, changing "ivory" have NOT ivory fits. These fits made from pig ivory.
But how can I know if this is made from pug or elephant ivory ? a small part of an ivory looks so similarly !
From 207.157.136.104
Posted on March 14, 2014 at 6:36 PM
current faux ivory and other substances which appear to be ivory are very difficult to distinguish visually- how do they test it? (I will NOT be traveling with my LaFleur, but my second bow has a faux tip that appears real. I don't want it broken in front of me before I can prove that it's fake!)
From 67.208.103.130
Posted on March 14, 2014 at 9:22 PM
As 207.... points out, faux ivory can be virtually impossible to detect visually from the real thing. I'm glad I don't have to travel with my instruments any more; the horror of what happened to the man's indigenous flutes, or the quartet whose members had to carry their caseless instruments onto their flight make it clear that travel for musicians is growing exponentially less possible. I think if I were to travel to Europe (my only likely destination) for holiday or study, I would arrange to rent instrument and bow at my trip's end. Life is too short to entertain professional thugs.
From 74.209.148.103
Posted on March 14, 2014 at 9:29 PM
Could instrument cases be searched as a matter of course because of this?
From Charles Henry577
Posted on March 15, 2014 at 12:38 AM
I have one German viola bow from early 20th century and another late 20th century. I believe both have ivory tips. I don't really plan on taking either out of the country.
If I were I think I would have the tips replaced since I don't believe they affect the playability in any significant way.
If a bow is a rare museum piece that is a different case, but should not matter for most bows. I believe that stopping the slaughter of elephants is more important than the preservation of ivory bow tips.

From Paul Deck
Posted on March 15, 2014 at 2:41 AM
The fact that over half of the survey respondents said "yes" and most of the comments here are from people who have ivory in their wonderful old European-made bows only provides justification for border agents to assume that bows coming across the border contain ivory. The question is, what can one do to prove that one's bow does NOT contain ivory? It would be worthwhile to ask the US Customs Service what evidence they will accept.

There are substances that one can use for a bow tip that will never be confused with ivory: Gold, aluminum, titanium nitride, Bakelite, etc.

From 108.215.253.186
Posted on March 15, 2014 at 5:18 PM
I have a bow that has not only an Ivory tip but also an Ivory frog. The person who made it said it is Mammoth Ivory. He still makes them and sells them today, even though I bought this bow in 1995. Thank goodness I bought a cheap carbon fiber bow a few months ago, although playing with it is nowhere near the same.
From 98.127.89.126
Posted on March 15, 2014 at 5:48 PM
Yeppers, Josh Henry put an Ivory tip on my Bausch, which had an ivory tip.
From Trevor Jennings
Posted on March 15, 2014 at 6:39 PM
I wonder how this regulation (which looks like it's straight out of Kafka) is going to affect not only visiting individual performers from outside the USA but also touring orchestras and other ensembles, many of which will be from the European subcontinent. All you need is some earnest "jobsworths" in Arrivals to "confiscate" (i.e. destroy) a bunch of valuable bows from an internationally famous orchestra and all hell will break loose on several levels. The sad outcome is that touring performers and orchestras will be reluctant to visit the USA, to everyone's cultural loss.

Individual performers and orchestras from within the USA who go on tour outside the USA will also have be very careful about what they take with them, in case it gets taken away from them on their return.

From Karen Rile
Posted on March 15, 2014 at 7:31 PM
I had a conversation with a high profile dealer about this the other day and came away with the impression that the rule is not in effect--there is a period of discussion first. (I want to go back and discuss this with them again when I am not double-parked with the engine running--. So apparently there will be some lobbying. There is talk of partnership between musicians and, of all things, the NRA. (Because they are rich, powerful, and have antique guns with ivory handles…)
From Paul Deck
Posted on March 15, 2014 at 9:08 PM
The important thing to remember about any and all such regulations is that the regulation itself is only one aspect -- the other is enforcement. People are now saying musicians will not visit the US. But is it America, or Europe, where musicians have actually had their violins confiscated by border agents for failing to have the proper paperwork and to be accused thereby of tax evasion and subjected to the threat of fines and imprisonment?

By the way it's a bit hard to see in the picture accompanying this blog entry, but the bow tip on the left seems to have cracks at the usual stress point and may be in need of repair anyway. If so, ask the luthier whether he can fix you up with an aluminum tip.

From 76.122.58.111
Posted on March 16, 2014 at 11:45 PM
I'm also worried about the whalebone wrapping on the stick (instead of the silver that's on most bows). I have several valuable bows with this wrapping--one of which is fake whalebone.

From 76.122.58.111
Posted on March 16, 2014 at 11:50 PM
How is tortoise-shell affected by this ruling? I have at least two bows with this feature, although the maker of one of the bows assured me that he got the tortoise-shell from an antique table that his mother owned. The other is a valuable Voirin bow. I think I should forget about ever taking this out of the country.
Aaron Krosnick
From Royce Faina
Posted on March 17, 2014 at 2:48 PM
this was my post98.127.89.126;
I need to corect this, Josh did not put an ivory tip when I sent it too him... Back when I bought it it had Ivory. the tip I have I believe is synthetic.
Cheers,
Royce

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